City of Whitefish, Montana Climate Action Plan

Whitefish, Montana has committed to climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in this Climate Action Plan. Drafted by a mayor-appointed committee with extensive public involvement, the plan describes the actions that Whitefish can take to transition to a clean energy economy, reduce GHG emissions, and strategically build resilience to climate change impacts. The report outlines nearly 100 specific actions to implement 26 climate adaptation and mitigation strategies across six chapters for six focal sectors: City Buildings and Energy; Transportation and Land Use; Water and Wastewater; Forests and Watersheds; Consumption, Food and Waste; and School District. 

Climate trends, projections and impacts for Whitefish and the Northwest Montana region are detailed in the plan’s first chapter. Increased temperatures, changes in precipitation and reduced snowpack are impacts that are already occurring and projected to worsen. Among others, extreme weather, wildfires, and air quality effects from smoke are additional impacts that are addressed in the plan.

The following Key Priorities to Prepare for Change were determined in the planning process as the most imperative for near-term implementation:

  • Establish the Whitefish area as a fire-adapted community.
  • Maximize cost savings by conserving water and by reducing capacity demands on the wastewater treatment plant.
  • Protect and diversify the drinking water supply.
  • Support community businesses, increase local production of food, and reduce waste.
  • Support more public transit options and make Whitefish bike- and pedestrian-friendly.
  • Strengthen strategic partnerships between schools and the community to establish the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship (CSE) as an innovation hub to teach both students and adults to build sustainable systems.

Adaptation pathways, strategies and actions are detailed in each primary sector:

Transportation and Land Use - “Smart growth” and Low-impact development such as green infrastructure are described along with landscaping with native plants and urban forestry as climate resilient solutions for Whitefish. “Green infrastructure reduces the heat island effect, filters stormwater, provides habitat, reduces reliance on fossil fuels, and creates opportunities for carbon sequestration.” Two adaptation strategies are identified:

  • Reduce impervious surfaces and increase green infrastructure.
  • Integrate climate adaptation and mitigation measures into urban forest and City parks management.

Water and Wastewater - Climate impacts to core water services are expected including seasonal drought, higher water demand, and increased risk from wildfire or aquatic invasive species to disrupt water supply. Priority climate adaptive water strategies are to:

  • Increase resilience and optimization of the Whitefish drinking water supply.
  • Expand water conservation practices by the City and the community.

Forests and Watersheds - Whitefish is striving to become a fire-adapted community by “maintaining well-managed natural forests across mixed ownerships and avoiding increased residential development in the forested wildland-urban interface.”

  • Minimize wildfire risk to community residents, infrastructure, and amenities.
  • Protect municipal watersheds and Whitefish Lake water quality.

Consumption, Food and Waste - As climate change can disrupt global supply chains and in turn the community’s food security and availability - local food production is encouraged. 

  • Improve the sustainability of City operations and purchases.
  • Expand City support of local food production and availability.

School District - The Whitefish School District has adopted sustainability education programming, preparing students for “solving complex and multifaceted sustainability challenges.” The schools are implementing sustainability actions that support the goals of the climate action plan. Some of the planned climate adaptive projects for the district include to:

  • Install rain sensors to reduce irrigation waste
  • Convert lawns to native plants
  • Use generated compost onsite
  • Develop educational programs with non-profits


Publication Date: April 2018

Related Organizations:

  • City of Whitefish, Montana


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Adaptation plan
  • Plans (other)

States Affected:


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